An unwelcomed visitor…
When I first came into the Army, one of the stupidest rules to which I was subjected was that troops couldn’t walk on any patch of grass anywhere on post. If any part of our boot even touched any piece of grass, some uptight, eagle-eyed, high-ranking sergeant or officer with not enough work to do would spot us. It never failed. These outdoor military watchdogs would call us out and yell at us before making us knock out an insane number push-ups on the ground until they got tired. Very humiliating to say the least! Thankfully, I never got caught due to me quickly adapting to the drill sergeants’ conditioning and vowing to avoid the sad fate of other unwary troops being embarrassed.
So when I retired after 22 years of service, the very first thing I did was to thumb my nose at that insane rule under which I lived and served for so many years. Once I got my retirement papers, I couldn’t wait to step on some grass anywhere on any post. At times going a bit out of my way, I deliberately found the first patch of grass I saw. I walked on it over and over and over again like a crazy person. I guess people looking at me from the windows of their buildings must have thought I had lost my mind, but I didn’t care. I even went so far as to think of actually laying down on the grass and rolling around on it as a playful puppy would do, but I thought that would draw too much negative attention.
Today, I was at Ramstein Air Base with the intention of visiting the post exchange. After parking my car, did I use the fancy brick sidewalk that leads shoppers from the parking lot to the post exchange entrance door? Oh, HELL NO! On my own special mission like a muthafucking ex-noncommissioned officer, I felt emboldened to thumb my nose at that old Army rule. I walked over to that big field of neatly trimmed grass and took in a deep breath before I defiled it. I felt so damn empowered to brazenly cut across that grassy area to get to the post exchange.
Yes, it has been years since I retired, but when the opportunity arises, I still feel the need to challenge authority in this way. Defiance runs amok within me. Fortunately, there are no idiots around to yell obscenities at me to tell me to get my ass off some patch of grass! Yeah, the Army had conditioned me long enough! Not sure if I will ever get this ‘grass turf thing’ out of my system. Over time, I have thought that I might need some type of therapy for this. Maybe I might even need to have a session with Dr. Phil.
While visiting the Post Exchange on Ramstein Air Base, I headed over to the section stocked with bath and health products. As I got near the aisle I needed, I heard a child screaming so loudly that it sounded like someone was beating it to death. Immediately I became concerned. I peeped around the corner of the aisle and stood shocked at what I saw.
A pre-teen White female about 12 years old was having a meltdown like a two-year-old. I knew pre-teen sensed that I was looking at her, but my presence only escalated her screams. So I walked towards her, but she didn’t look at me…yet. She had dark brown hair cropped short to just below her ears. From what I could see, I noticed that her face had turned intensely red, which was probably caused by the heat from the anger she was generating.
She stood about as tall as I was, and she wore a plaid pleated skirt with a white blouse and navy blue sweater, a uniform which appeared to be a Catholic school standard. As I walked further into the aisle, she frowned as she whipped her head around to look up at me when I came into her view. Her sudden move startled me a bit, and the Blair Witch Project sprang to my mind because her eyes were scarily rimmed in red. Squinting my eyes in disbelief, I could have sworn I saw horns sticking out from each side of her head. But I chalked that up to my eyes playing tricks on me. Tears streamed down her face, and snot had dripped from her nose down to her top lip. An ugly, pitiful sight indeed.
I thought my presence would make her stop the sideshow drama, but she ignored me to return to her childish tirade. She then turned to face the shelf looming before her, which I presumed had a product or products that she wanted, but that her mother couldn’t buy at the time or didn’t think she needed. Suddenly, this kid took her tantrum up a notch by stomping her feet and yelling, “You’re a liar! You’re a liar! You always lie! You never let me get anything. I hate you. I just hate you!” I had seen episodes like this before much too often where spoiled brats tried to get their way in a store by embarrassing their anguished parents. This kid’s got some hard lessons yet to learn, I thought.
I noticed further down the aisle that a young mother went about her business of browsing the shelves all the while ignoring this unruly child, who I assumed belonged to her. The young mother was a lovely young lady with thick long brown hair that fell below her shoulders. She was dressed very stylishly. Though she tried, I could tell that she was suffering from the embarrassing pressure of her kid acting up like this in public. My heart went out to that young mother. I must say that as a mother and grandmother myself, I had a grab bag of remedies to offer to this young mom, which wouldn’t draw blood or leave scars on her snot-nosed kid.
But before I could approach her to speak with her, something strange happened. Something for which I wasn’t prepared. Something which caught me totally off guard. As her misbehaving child continued to scream incessantly, the young mother looked up at me, ran towards me, threw her arms around me, and just hugged me tight as if I were her own mother.
To this day, I don’t know what drew her to me, a Black lady much older than she was. Though our apparent differences couldn’t have been more diverse, it didn’t matter to her nor to me. But I think all she needed at that time was some measure of comfort, and I was glad I was there for her. I hugged her back warmly as if she were my daughter. Without hesitation, I whispered reassuringly in her ear, “Hang in there, young mother.” No further words were necessary. She knew that I understood and that hug from me was all she needed to help strengthen her to deal with her situation. After we had broken our embrace, she held on to my arms, looked into my eyes and smiled, a signal that told me that she was grateful. For those brief moments during our hug, I think we both drowned out the screeching noise from the brat. But before leaving, she looked into my eyes again and said, “Thank you” with such sincerity that I almost cried. Then the young mother went on her way down the aisle and eventually turned the corner.
Not surprisingly, she left her juvenile delinquent in the aisle with me to continue stewing in her self-made temper-tantrum juices. With my maternal instinct now in overdrive, I started to go over to the brat to try and comfort her too or at least try to calm her down. I wanted to express to her how lucky she was to have a great mother like that. But I changed my mind when I realized that I had my fist balled up ready to land a right hook to her face. Coming to my senses, I turned the other way and left the unholy terror alone in the aisle. I thought that was the best course of action for both me and the brat.
Strangely enough, when I reached the next aisle, a sudden hush fell over that section of the store. I no longer heard the howling. Not sure if the hell child, who had calmed down for some reason, had caught up with her mother or not, but I do know one thing: God works in mysterious ways.
As a child growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, I remember that my mom and dad would buy me all kinds of educational stuff to keep my little overactive, creative brain entertained, especially while I was out of school on summer vacation. Thanks to my dad, I was proud that I had my own subscription to Children’s Reader’s Digest. I spent hours playing with my Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head family, which he purchased for me. Though it didn’t interest me that much, I remained mildly amused each time I played my game “Operation.”
Topping off my treasure trove of pleasant distractions were my numerous puzzle books and my jumbo box of Crayola crayons, which contained multiple rare shades in addition to the traditional primary colors. No other kids on my block had such an array of educational tools. I felt privileged to have so many choices at my disposal for amusement.
I remember that my choice spot to play outside was our wooden front porch, where I would sit comfortably cross-legged and prepare to color my little tail off, blissfully lost in my own private world of solitude. I usually settled down with one of my favorite coloring books. I could hardly wait to flip through it to pick out and produce colorful pictures, which I would hang on my bedroom wall sometimes.
I cherished whatever I created, always being careful to stay within the lines of the pictures. I liked my colored-in pages to be neat and took pride in neatness. As an adult, I still do.
One Saturday morning, a little knucklehead barefoot boy dressed in a mismatched shirt and shorts, which ended at his knees, came to our gate. I knew that he lived down the street in my neighborhood, but I didn’t know his name. I hardly ventured outside of our wire fenced-in front yard. Besides, there was no need for me to go anywhere else in the neighborhood because I had everything I needed and wanted at home. But back to this seedy looking kid. I remember when he spoke to me, mumbling something barely audible, “Whatcha doing?” I looked up from my coloring book and on the tip of my tongue was, “Can’t you see that I’m coloring, you idiot?” But I could sense that he was short on enough brains to be able to keep up with me, so I stuck to using a simple word, loudly snapping back with, “Coloring!” I thought he would go away on his own and bother someone else. There were plenty of kids at other houses on our block. God only knows why he picked mine. Then he spoke up again and asked if he could come in my yard and color in my book too.
Gotta mention that my parents taught me early on to never be selfish and to share with others, but this kid had me worried for some reason about me sticking to this golden rule. Still cautious, I kept the thought in the back of my mind that at some point, I might have to go against my parents’ sage advice. Reluctantly, I told him he could come in the yard. But in all my childhood naivety, I had no idea that I would regret my invitation to him. He came up the steps and sat cross-legged on the porch next to me. After I finished coloring my page, he scooted closer to see my finished product. I remember thinking to myself, “I hope he gets a splinter in his little ass, which would definitely send him home crying in pain without me having to lay a hand on him. I thought maybe if I just ignore him, he’ll just go away on his own without me resorting to any violence. Anyway, I showed him my completed page of a garden filled with vibrant flowers to give him an idea of what he should
I remember thinking to myself, “I hope he gets a splinter in his little ass, which would definitely send him home crying in pain without me having to lay a hand on him. I thought maybe if I just ignore him, he’ll just go away on his own without me resorting to any violence. Anyway, I showed him my completed page of a garden filled with vibrant flowers to give him an idea of what he should aim for in coloring in MY book. He looked at the page and nodded his head up and down as if he knew what I expected of him. I hoped he did for his own safety.
Although I was still wary of his mental abilities, I flipped through my coloring book to find a simple picture that would not be too difficult for him to complete. I found one and then turned my coloring book around for him to easily be able to color on the page from his sitting position. With no apparent thought process, he grabbed my crayon box and took an orange crayon from the box without relating that particular color he chose to fit anything in the picture on the page. Nothing in the drawing called for the color orange. The picture was of a few trees, a small stream with a frog nearby. I didn’t say anything…yet, but I frowned and watched as he bent down closer to the page and started to attack the picture erratically with zig zag lines all over the page. Dumbfounded, I sat back and steamed in silence as I watched him put down the orange crayon on the porch and pick a purple crayon out of the box. The first thing that teed me off was that he didn’t even put the orange crayon back in my box! Damned moron, I thought! Then he started scratching more zig-zag lines all over the orange crap he made on the page. I began to wonder if he didn’t see the fucking trees and the small stream with a little frog nearby? This crazy crap was too much for me not to take some action. I thought to myself, “This little shithead has GOT TO GO.”
Angry and frustrated, I snatched the purple crayon from his hand and put it back in my crayon box. In a flash, I stood up and told him to get his stinky little ass off my porch. His eyes got big as Oreo cookies. Fearful of what might come next, he quickly stood up, visibly scared that I would punch him in the face, which I wanted to do and had every right to do. But messing up a page in my cherished coloring book didn’t rise to the level of an ass kicking from me. As he scrambled down the steps, I ran behind him. He flew out the gate, which is where I stopped. I shook my fist at him and screamed, “And don’t you ever come back in my yard. Ever!”
I watched him hightail it down the block, laughing as I heard the sound of his bare feet slapping the pavement like someone getting repeatedly smacked in the face. I saw him make a sharp left and disappear down an alley where his house was. Honestly, he deserved to get beat up, but on second thought, banning him from my yard was enough punishment. Needless to say, he never showed up again at my gate. I stomped up the stairs and sat down on the porch again, looking at my coloring book with disgust as if it needed a vaccination from some type of disease. But I picked it up and flipped through the pages to the one that the little idiot had destroyed. I tore that page out and balled it up to later discard in the garbage can. I felt better then. Ahh, so much drama from my childhood days.
Since I was a little nerdy girl in Catholic school, I have always loved writing. I always looked forward to reading time at school when the nuns would read classic stories to the class. I remember The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and Louisa Mae Alcott’s Little Women as being my favorites. As the nun read these descriptive stories to the class, I would let my imagination run wild as I mentally envisioned the places and people and countryside and cottages the nun read about from the books. My dad nurtured my thirst for reading by buying me children’s books. But my special treat was a monthly subscription to Children’s Digest, a gift from my dad. I would wait at our gate for the mailman on the particular day of the month when I knew my own little magazine would arrive. Once I got it and the rest of our mail, I rushed inside, put the rest of the mail on the dresser, and dashed to the sofa by the window to dig into my Digest. First, I would do the crossword puzzle. Then I would go through the Word Power section to learn new words and to see which ones I knew already. This helped to increase my vocabulary. Then I’d take my time reading the captivating stories included for that month. And to this day, I always buy a Reader’s Digest whenever I spot one on a magazine rack or in a bookstore. My love for it will never die, thanks to my wonderful dad.
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