Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Truck by Any Other Name

During the summers when I was 12 through 16 years old, I’d live with my aunt and her family “on the lake,” as they say in northern Wisconsin. It doesn’t mean you lived in a floating vessel atop Adam’s ale (water); it means “a lake lies beyond your front, or back, yard,” depending on where you situate your front door, which can be really confusing if you only use the side door as we did.

We’d ski almost every day, pulling the boat in to refuel occasionally and dashing in for peanut butter sandwiches when we got hungry. It was “fend for yourself” there. I was always hungry—and extremely thin.

Because I was the oldest kid—my four cousins were younger than I by two years (Scott), three (Hope), 10 (Kent), and 13 (Alison)—I sometimes had to care for the youngest. An adorable child with black hair due to Native American heritage, a cute little nose, and a sweet, angelic voice, Alison could also be a pain. I have four memorable experiences with that girl, two of which I’ll share.

When I was 15, Hope and I decided to take a walk on the lake road (we actually walk on the road). Out of obligation, we had to take Alison too—just what teenagers want to do. Ali wore only a top and a diaper. After all, she was 18 months old and it was warm, humid summertime. I carried Alison on my shoulders, so Hope and I could walk faster.

About five minutes into our trek, I smelled something putrid very close to my nose and immediately felt that I would vomit. I carefully lifted my cute, little cousin from my shoulders and found that she had filled her diaper. My neck was brown and lumpy.

Another story was Alison’s Lessons in Learning to Talk. My aunt was driving with some of us kids into town one day. Wabeno, Wisconsin: one grocery store, one post office, two gas stations, five saloons. Heading toward us was a big semi rolling through this itty-bitty burg.

In her sweet, angelic voice, empty-boweled Alison squealed, “Look, Mommy, a fruck!”

(Puzzle piece number 31 of 38.)

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