Born free

Dad’s blind, so it shouldn’t surprise anybody that he never was much for playing catch or bicycling with the kids, but you’d be surprised what he was willing to try on occasion. Of course, if you’d like to wrestle, he’d always be happy to take you on. As for Mom, she worked, of course. She worked and worked. She’s still working.

When all was said and done, we didn’t see much of Mom and Dad during the day. For one, they worked hard, Dad being the chiropractor and Mom being the jane-of-all-trades office manager. Then there were times when they’d go out for a well-deserved cup of coffee or tea. There was also all the Baha’i work, and on an odd day they might be planning our next move or house hunting.

Many of my boyhood memories of dealings with authority figures often involved my sisters, who were 11 and 5 years older than me. In general, there wasn’t a lot to stop me from doing as I pleased.

I remember quite clearly going out for a walk when I was about age four, and getting a ride home in a police cruiser.

The Walterboro that I remember was just a crossing of a pair of dirt roads, with a church and a couple houses. There’s more to the town than that, but that’s all I can recall. Back behind our neighbor’s house, across a field, I remember an outdoor freezer that was stuffed with juice pops. It must have been behind a store, but that didn’t matter. I only remember the freezer and the pops. Long, slender bags full of sweet, frozen punch.

The dirt roads were full of ruts, and there was a big hole between the houses. I don’t know what it was for. Garbage, perhaps. I remember pieces of newsprint tumbling around it. At dusk, there was the truck that would drive through, dusting the neighborhood’s mosquitoes with DDT. What an unearthly memory.

There were pranks, makeshift go carts, a bb gun, a pig attack, plenty of spankings, and a bush fire. There was nothing quite so scary as when my big brother got pneumonia, and no thrill quite like getting a hold of one of his model cars or erector set creations.

Then there was the sexual exploration, the likes of which I wouldn’t experience again until adulthood. Just good clean interracial intercourse among consenting children. Just doing our bit for racial unity, I guess.

We moved to Liberty after I graduated from kindergarten. I then matriculated to playing with fire in the crawlspace under our house, getting beat up at school, and being cajoled by playmates into throwing pebbles at cars.

After school, I would often show myself into town to partake in some window shopping (I don’t think I ever stole until I was seven). One time while dashing off to the five and dime, I got hit by a car. I was knocked out cold, rolling, I was told, down the street. My collar bone was broken. The lady that clobbered me bribed me good. I’d never seen so many cool toys in my life, but man did it hurt. I didn’t dare cross a street for years, unless no cars could be seen on it.

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