We were pretty in polka dots. Kimbies and I. She, tall and Indian dark, French braids cascading down her neck. Me. Toothless. With my dirty-mop colored hair chopped off to match my Barbie doll. Our mama dressed us in identical little dresses so we could swirl and smile and impress the masses… “the company”.
I cringed. My knotty little knees were always dirty and scraped from crawling in spaces and places best meant for cats, my fingernails were frayed and fringed, not from nail biting, but dirt digging. I liked to dig in the dirt. Kimbies just smiled. Like a good child should. I grinned. And showed off that “I yanked it out myself” toothless overbite . There aren’t a lot of pictures to back up this story…….
Our parents partied. They had cook-outs and poker games, they drank cocktails and champagne, they danced in the living room. And they had “company”. People that came to visit in long black cars. People that smelled good. Tanned women with cleavage. Men with cigars.
We were allowed to smile…..
And never, ever interrupt……
The “warming” was on a Saturday. The unveiling of the massive addition to the back of the house….the den with its hand carved bar and baroque antique cash register, the “guest rooms”….
I was getting out of it. Only had to wear the pink velvet empire waisted dress for about 20 minutes. While the “company” arrived. Then I could go…
I flew back to my bedroom, peeled the scratchy thing off my bony body and tried on my Trainer. Mama had brought it home for just this occasion. I adjusted the tiny little triangles. Tugged on it a little. Perfect. The elastic straps flopped from my shoulders. Yup, that’s the way it’s supposed to fit.
I grabbed my plastic Brownie pocket book and put the price tags from my very first Bra in it. Keeper. Pulled the uniform over my head, plopped on the floor in my "Saturday" underwear and yanked on the dirty brown socks and a pair of filthy Ked sneakers. Grabbed the musty ole sleeping bag from the corner of the room, borrowed, not bought for the occasion, and started to lug it all out of the house…..
“Sweetie, could you turn the bacon wraps onto low?” my Mama purred at me, as I passed. ’Course! I plunked the stinky sleeping bag down and reached up and counted the little white push buttons. Hit the one next to the red one. OFF!
“It’s almost time for the camp-out, Mommy” I hollered into the empty part of the house. Voices, laughter, cigar smoke, billowed back at me. But not Mama.
I grinned. Drug the dirty sleeping bag out the kitchen door and kicked it down the drive way. Waiting on my ride. I sat on the concrete, legs unlady-like, and waited. Scribbled elementary graffiti onto the bleached white surface with a stick. Chewed my feather-like fingernails. Every time I heard a car engine, I jumped up. Waited. Plopped back down on the concrete. It was taking FOREVER to go on my very first Brownie camp-out ever!
The cigar smoke was getting thick. It sort of crawled out the kitchen door. It was yucky and black. I got up and trudged up the slope to SLAM the kitchen door.
And then I saw it. Felt it. Heard it. The flames. Orange and alive. Licking the kitchen cabinets. Snapping, crackling, making Jiffy-Pop noises. Painting pretty psychedelic designs on the curtains. And it was hot. Really hot.
I ran fast, without tripping once, to our pretty-in-pink bedroom and bellowed at Kimbies…. "The damn kitchen is on fire!” Her brown eyes, like frozen chocolate donuts, pasted themselves onto mine. Her dark little fingers dropped the perfect Barbie with her hair still in the plastic sleeve into the little pink convertible and…..
At the fire.
And then we tiptoed through the new French doors. Holding hands. Past the bartender. And the lady with the big boobs. Out the back door into the moonlight. Where the “company” was in full swing. We searched the hemlines and toe rings (yup, our Mom had one of those), the wing tips, and sports jackets….the voices in the night air…..for Mom or Dad.
We found him first. Flocked by three handsome “Are you a movie star?” men, engaged in hearty conversation. We tugged on his pant leg. He rubbed my chopped off hair. I did that thing with my legs that I did when I was gonna wet my pants in exactly twenty seconds. They kept blabbering.
With that woo-you voice, he bent down and tenderly took both of our chins into his massive hands and whispered “My dearest, darling daughters, what can I do for you?”
And we yelped and welped and jumped and leaped …..
“THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE!”