With fall came the raking and burning of the dead, dry leaves. Building forts with Nick and Sarah, dad in his red and black checkered fall coat. Mom making pictures or going for long walks. Fingers cold in the afternoon wind and the crack of rifles being readied for the hunt.
Winter was gray. Month after month. The blanket of a midwest seasonal change. Traversing the swamp hunting ducks with dad. Football games in the snow and snowballs fights. The smart kids stuffing their snowballs with gravel the day before then running them under the tap before leaving them in the freezer all night. Pure pain even with a weak arm. I was the youngest, the smallest and the most frail.
Most days came with cold, pain, and at least a small amount of crying. The older kids would pick me up, shake me off and tell me I was fine. Blood froze quickly. Layer upon layer, mittens, snowmobile hat, and still our end of session met with the freezing burn of blood returning to extremity. Fingers red and damp from sweat and melted snow. Nose running, crusty. Famished. Mom ready with homemade jerky or custard.
This is all we knew. There was yet to be an outside world. Glimpses were all we had. Glimpses of better, brighter, warmer, and different. There was the Dog Town skateboard, bought from a mail-order form in the back of a motorcycle magazine. Wide, synthetic wheels and real trucks. A traction deck with a “DT” cutout in that rainbow material so popular at the time. My brother saving his money and pulling the trigger. We marveled at this futuristic device like we would a particle reactor from an alien craft. A symbol that somewhere out there were people more sophisticated than us. My narrow wooden board with metal wheels suddenly evidence our tribe falling behind. (My brother still has this board.)
These eras are tattoos on collective memory and our DNA. There is no escaping who we are and where we came from. Chapter One, January 1. 1969. Another human arrives. Nondescript. Happy. Skills and legacy unknown. Who will he be? What will he do? Where will he go?
There was no data then, at least no attempt to quantify. Cigarette burning in the ashtray with another in hand. Foundry and factory, castings, and school outings. Privilege. Overalls. Running from girls on the playground. I don’t remember what I asked Mrs. Santa for. Radio-controlled car, electronic football game, or BB gun? But knowing what I know now, I’m sure she came through.