We walked into school late, as usual. I had an orange hand-held Donkey Kong game with a big crack in it my mom got from the dump. I could play it for hours at night in my sleeping bag and flashlight when no one was looking and I had the night before. With wide open eyes covered in frost, feeling the air slamming around them I ran from the car. A tattered brown paper lunch bag, smelling of tofu sandwiches from the previous week and stale corn chips tore and crunched in my left hand, trying to stay with me.
Numbers, colors, painting, blocks, a story about cows or tractors or airplanes. My feet dug themselves into the floor as I craned my neck to check the clock. 8:30. My navy blue padded cloth boots had a 3” tear on the left side. It was my secret weapon to ensure I put them on the correct feet. I examined it for 15 minutes. Then a song - I mumbled and lip synced along nervously.
The curtains opened and it was time. Ezra went first. New soccer ball, new cleats, new shoes - curly hair and dimples. Blond Abby - some ugly doll which cried. Jeff got a Patriots starter jacket. His thin black hair stuck to his scalp while his wild blue eyes jumped around. Fletcher had a toy gun. It was contraband and quietly confiscated, quiet tears turned to punches. Time out. Let’s resume.
Finn was sitting next to me. He had something from Europe. No one cared. Okay, my turn. I walked slowly, putting weight on each foot. The wales of my corduroys vibrated as I turned. The words all came out in delayed split second intervals, like the Tie Fighters in Star Wars all leaving the bay milliseconds after one another, creating a cascade of bew-bew-bew. My stomach released its tension. My eyes went full aperture. No one understood me. Second try: “We. Got. Our. Own. House. Today!”
My cheeks felt like they were held up by metal hooks. I appeared a cult acolyte, gazing wildly for confirmation. None came. Everyone already had their own house. But it didn’t matter. I wouldn’t leave the stage. Feet firmly planted in the carpet, my back arched, my 7-yr old belly perturbed through my horizontally stripped rainbow sweatshirt causing the lines to warp and twist. My eyes softened, I breathed deep through my nose and with prompting returned to my place in the circle.
A few years later, Governer William F. Weld would strike down section 550 - affordable housing credit for mothers and children (or something). I wrote an impassioned and misspelled letter, but to no avail. We were forced to move. They took away the gentle slope that fell into a forest cliff, the hollowed out trees I hid from the ninjas in, the fairy island in the river with brown clay banks, the forked tree where I kept the feathers and crystals. Other kids or real estate developers would enjoy them. There would be other houses of course, better jobs, more money, other trees. But I would not tell about them.