As the K-5 literacy coach in my district, I receive a great amount of professional development and in turn, offer workshops to our teachers. One of my favorites was one led by Amy Ludwig Vaderwater entitled, “Teacher as Writer/Writer as Teacher,” based on the TCRWP philosophy which believes that in order to be an effective writing teacher, we must live as writers. Although I am an avid follower of Two Writing Teachers blog, I have never participated in the weekly SOLSC or in the March daily challenge. However, since I am home healing from a recent injury, I have no excuse. My objective is to begin drafting family stories, with the ultimate goal of publishing a photo journal for my family.
“We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.”
One of the funniest things about memories is how different they are remembered by those who were involved in the story or were witness to it. That’s particularly true with siblings, especially when it involves blame – and in my case, as the youngest of three and the only girl, I managed to dodge the finger-pointing more often than not.
“Can we, mom? Please? Please? ” with hands clasped together, Joey and I pleaded with our parents to let us go to the playground. It was intermission at the Totowa Drive-In, “Sleeping Beauty” ended, while “The Trouble with Angels” was in cue. Families flocked to the snack bar to grab cokes, candy and coffee, or in our case, to replace spilled beverages, now worn on Joey’s footie pajamas alongside the car mats in our station wagon. At six-years old, my accident prone brother was already on his fourth life, fast-tracking my mother into her ninth. Exhausted from the already endless summer mom gave in. “Ok. Ok. Watch your sister, and make sure you’re back before the movie begins!”
Not waiting to hear it twice, we shot off into the distance, scattering across the gravel, racing to reach our destination, our mother’s words lingering on the breeze. “Watch your sister…” At six and four, we had no business being on our own, but in our 1966 world, freedom and safety were a given – not a concern. Hidden by the shadow of the slide, the teeter-totter, our destination, hung from a rusty chain centered in the midst of neon painted bars. Lucky for us, it was open, as kids and parents were already scurrying back to their cars, a sign we should have noticed. We leaped onto the seats, balancing ourselves to distribute the weight evenly, guaranteeing a good ride.
Leaning back, staring into the night, I screamed to my brother, “Go faster!” He responded in like, pumping his feet – the two of us whirling around in reckless abandon, spinning so quickly, neither one of us noticed the spotlight blink, indicating it was time to head back. Slowly the lights began to dim, and in one final flash, it went black. “Joey!” I shouted. No response. “Joey – where are you?” I continued, my voice shaking, hoping he was there, hiding in the shadows, playing another practical joke. “Joey! Stop teasing me! Where are you?” It wasn’t long before I realized he was gone and I was alone.
Complete and utter panic set in. Heart pounding , eyes sobbing, I began searching aimlessly for my family, wandering down rows and rows of cars. Nothing was familiar – every sight, every sound, every smell… all looked the same. In my four-year-old mind, it felt like hours had passed, before a friendly young couple, scooped me up. And on our way to the “lost and found children,” we ran into my parents. “My baby!” Fifty years later, I can still see recall that moment; my mother was a wreck, my father was angry, two reactions to fear – both assuring me then that Joey took the blame.
Years later, when I was sharing that story with my children, nieces and nephews, my brother shared his version… He said, that while we were on the teeter-totter, the projection screen lit up with the familiar, “Two minutes to show time!” song led by the dancing fries, hot dog and soda trio. He told me we had to go, but I protested and refused to leave – determined to extend my play time. After several attempts, he did as he was told, “Get back before the movie begins!” but, he failed at the family rule, “Watch your sister!” Thanks for taking the fall – the first of many. Sorry, big brother!