First there is track and field day. We travel to the nearest city – a place to compete with all the schools that surround it. When I am 11 and then when I am 12 – I win most competitions – all the competitions requiring jumping or running. I win them with ease. I am not bragging. I am not perfect. I do very poorly in any throwing competition. When I bring my ribbons and crests home my mother says ‘How… you are so sloppy’. My dad says ‘I knew you could do it.‘ One balances the other. My mom said that occasionally and it didn’t hurt my feelings. She also told me many times to act like a lady…
I do not care they can’t really afford to send me further. Because being in the Olympics means being away from my family. I don’t want that anyway. I am not only conscious we are poor – I am glad we are poor. I don’t fear much – but leaving my family is a fear.
Then on the last day of school for the year, we have a picnic. Once again we all gather together for a day of fun and excitement. Parents, friends and relatives. We play games. There is ball-games and competitions like the three-legged-race to participate in. No one is left out. We have a huge fire and roast wieners and marshmallows. It is so delicious. My mom says I am the only one of her kids that gets sick – eating too much. Come on mom…hot-dogs and bought mustard. How can I resist. I only get that once a year. But I only get sick once from over-eating. I didn’t like the helpless feeling at all.
One of my favorite parts of school’s end is the amount of clear, free paper from unused notebooks I can accumulate. My siblings understand I am the one who wants all that paper. Mostly they are willing to give me their supplies too. The anticipation of drawing, writing and pencil stubs is almost overwhelming. It’s not as though I have the option of just asking for paper. We are poor. I know that. But at this time – I feel rich.
Then I have another problem. If I read too much – or I spend all my time inside, drawing and writing – what do I do about the feeling life is passing me by. I often have that feeling. It’s wonderful to disappear into the fascinating characters – but what about me? So I carefully place the box of treasures under my bed, keeping it away from prying eyes – or just in case someone demands their paper back. Then I go out in the sunshine to live my life – still a fantasy (as I pretend I am a cowboy or a rancher, or I am fighting the bad-guys) – but much more real to me. I have six-shooters, holsters, rifles and horses to ride. I even have a buckskin fringed jacket, my cousin passes down once it is too small for him. Sounds real enough to me.
My papers sit inside, safe for those cold, harsh days when I can draw or write to my heart’s content.