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SPARK » Rusty Lynn and Channie Greenberg

Rusty Lynn and Channie Greenberg

Rusty Lynn
“If Memory Serves”
Response

Summer of 1971
By Channie Greenberg
Inspiration piece

They arrived at dusk. The mother carried in a sleeping child, while the father dragged a wheeled suitcase behind him.

We pressed our faces against our living room window.

Three little girls followed their parents and baby into the house. The tallest and the shortest of the three had dark hair, whereas the one in the middle was blond.

The next morning, my sister and I went over to greet our new neighbors. The middle sister answered the door.

Tami and I introduced ourselves. The new girl said little.

Back home, we supposed, to ourselves, that the middle child was slightly older than me and slightly younger than Tami. Conversely, we said nothing to each other about the light in her eyes seeming bruised.

****

Over the next few months, Alexia and I became friends. We walked around the local mall together. We gathered sour apples from the woodlands, a block away, which had once been an orchard. We also fought.

I had insisted that close friends need no pinky promises or drops of exchanged blood to become confidants. Contrariwise, Alexia had maintained that some experiences ought not to go beyond the threshold of their owners’ lips.

I felt rejected.

She felt coerced.

At the height of our dispute, we didn’t talk to each other for two entire days. During each of those twenty-four hour spans, I pressed my face against my living room window, but refused to walk across our lawn to visit.

Nonetheless, the third day after our falling out was Alexia’s tenth birthday party. I put aside my resentment to share vanilla cake with sprinkles and pin the tail on the donkey with her and her family.

A bowl of overly sweet strawberry ice cream and a game of alphabet tag later, I couldn’t wait to show my best friend the baby bird, which I had rescued. Sadly, instead of observing its antics, we prepared its burial.

Sometime after we had made peace, Alexia came to my house in tears. Her parents had called her and her sisters into her father’s den and had told them with sparse words that their family was moving, again.

I didn’t want to ever let go of her when I heard that news. I was supposed to be able to talk to her about boys in a few years. Alexia already more than surpassed Tami as someone to whom to whisper while cocooned in sleeping bags in our backyard.

She and I never caught jarfuls of lightening bugs, or surreptitiously plucked the roses from my mother’s bushes. We did, nonetheless, gossip together about Sue Ellen Jones’ disappearance from our classroom, and about our fourth grade instructor, Mrs. Donaldson. What’s more, once, we two snuck a dab of my mother’s lipstick. It felt impossible that I would be promoted to middle school without my second self.

All the same, her family would not be remaining in our neighborhood. In fact, Alexia’s father had said that they might need to move before their house sale.

When the moving van came, I hurried to Alexia’s house with my gift. Inside of a shoebox, I had stuck my prettiest rock, a fawn-speckled bit of siltstone that I had found when poking around behind the dugout at the local park. I had told my mother that I was walking the two blocks between our house and the park to use the playground, but I had defiantly snooped for treasures, instead.

Alongside of that rock was a note that I had written with my precious, purple pen. Colored ink, outside of blue or back, or teachers’ red, was rare in those days. I used that implement sparingly.

Finally, I had laid one of the pin feathers, from the baby bird that we had buried together, next to the rock. I hoped that Alexia would like my offerings.

Alexia covered me with kisses. She told me that she’d save opening the box for when she settled in her new home and felt lonely all over again. Sisters were great, but they were not soul mates.

Meanwhile, Alexia’s younger sister kept an eye on the family’s toddler. Her older sister packed apples and egg salad sandwiches into a cooler.

Alexia hugged me, waved, and then returned to collecting the needed Triple-A maps. Afterwards, she counted the pillows being packed into the car; one was needed for each child.

Too soon, both the van and the car drove away.

The Internet did not exist, then. Besides, ten year-olds make crummy pen pals. Not surprisingly, Alexia and I lost touch.

****

Yesterday, when I was shopping with two of my grandsons, I saw a family with three little girls. The oldest helped herself to boxes of sugary cereal. The youngest hoisted a cantaloupe into their mother’s cart. The middle child, though, had eyes that seemed like they were filled with bruised light. She carefully placed a package of tissues among the other possessions.

 

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