Command Performance or a Bird in the Hand

When I was around 10 my Mom used to take me for visits across the street. The house across the street contained a “lady” and when I went for visits the Lady’s granddaughter was there.



The house of the Lady always intrigued me. The rug was white and deep pile. The kind of pile that you’d sink into and leave footprints, evidence of your crossing, but it was covered in plastic and when you walked you’d crunch. The couch and chairs were covered in plastic too. The lamps were covered in plastic and on top of the plastic over the rug in the entrance way was a thicker mat of plastic (to keep the plastic clean?).

My Mom would knock on the front door and we’d wait and finally the door would open and we’d be ushered into this alternate reality. 

The home I was raised in was tidy and clean, the yard was well tended and our flower beds and garden neat and bright. Where paint belonged there was paint (renewed annually) and my Dad had fashioned river rock pathways and a retaining wall. There was no plastic covering our rugs or couch though. Perhaps that was the reason our house didn’t shine like the Lady’s. 

I’d stand in the middle of the Lady's front room, my hands carefully clasped together as I’d been taught and said “Hello” nodding my head to the Lady and then be ushered again, crunching across the front room and through the sparkly kitchen and out the back door to the yard in the back where I’d “play” with the granddaughter. I don’t remember her name; the granddaughter. 

Presumably my Mom and the Lady would have tea. I never had tea. I never even was offered a cookie.



“Everyone else gives me cookies when I visit!”

“Shush.”



A couple of days after our “last” visit my Mom sat on my bed after tucking me in and then told me we wouldn’t be visiting any more. 



“Why!?” I asked thinking I knew the reason but afraid I was in trouble and hoping I could divert.



My Mom told me she didn’t “really” know and then asked me if I’d had a fight with the granddaughter. 

I can’t remember what I told her. I may have pretended to know nothing. I may have told her the story. I can’t remember. I do remember my Mom’s sad eyes and the plain fact that I didn’t get into trouble. 



The Story



There weren’t many children on the block where I lived and I was always happy when there was someone to play with, so the visits to the granddaughter weren’t a chore but the granddaughter was bossy and being somewhat “sensitive” myself there was conflict from time to time. I do remember my Mom cautioning me about this and her advising me to always “stick up for yourself” but at the same time reminding me to “mind your temper”. Good advice but tough for a ten year old to fathom. Tough for adults too.



There we were the granddaughter and I playing in the back yard. Her the princess, me the slave, for these were the “games” we played. Her the lady, me the servant. Her the cowboy, me the Indian. Her the fashion model, me the dresser.



Enough.



My Mom’s cautionary voice ringing in my conscience, I rebelled in a small way. I rebelled by bragging.



“See those robins over there”, I exclaimed pointing at a group of birds pecking under a bush in the back of the yard. “I betcha I can catch one!”



“No you can’t!” the granddaughter assured me in her prissy princess voice. “You’re a slave! Birds only come to princesses! Not to slaves!”



“I can too! I can too!” and I bounded over to the robins, scattering them up and into the air. My only chance lost I groped in the air at the last robin and much to my surprise I caught it.

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*****************************Warm********************

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*******Blood*********************************** 


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*Scared********************************************
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**********************Fragile************************
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******************************Careful***********

*********Careful****************

******Careful***
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I was filled with the presence and gift I’d been given and instantly afraid I’d hurt it. So delicate, so fragile, so soft. I immediately let it go and it flew away.

The princess was angry, arms crossed over her chest, and once again I was instantly afraid.

“You should have given it to me!” the princess roared.

I knew I’d be in trouble. I knew I’d be in trouble because the princess assured me I would.

Didn't know it would last my whole life.

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