Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pea Coats in June

It always has been different in the bay area. I was born in a place called Sobrante Park. This was considered the ghetto of the ghetto. There was only one way into the area and one way out. I look back and realize the house where I lived was the final point of return, any further and you had to be a native to navigate. The local public transit bus stopped at my house, latter it just stopped altogether. The police were never present but we handled everything on our own, in truth, we did not need them.


I remember us living in that house at the end of a turning block, so we had a huge front yard filled with grass that I was allergic to but played in nonetheless. I would run from the garage to front door with my great dane chasing me, pining me, and licking my face when I was caught. We had this huge evergreen tree that cast a great shadow on the entire front lawn. I would climb to a place where a few large branches met with the trunk and formed a place that looked like a throne. There I imagined myself king of East Oakland and Pharaoh of all the land.


It’s funny how some things remain the same. In those earlier years, I don’t remember watching that much television, not till I was a few years older. I remember watching my first hailstorm from the front door. I was already fascinated and knew that water falling from the sky was magic. Seeing the water falling from the sky, then for it to turn into ice, was resonance of the magic around me. The red porch held court to my first thunder and lightning show. It made my giant beastly hound, the great dane I named clip_image002Sir Night because of his pitch black coat save the white stripe on his belly, run around and whimper as if it was yellow.


            The fourth of July topped them all. After night had fallen and darkness had well settled in, the entire neighborhood gathered where the way in became the way out. Some years we all gathered in the alleyway, another place only natives knew and the only place I was not freely allowed to roam. All of the kids my age ran around waving our sparklers pretending them to be the mystical incarnations we truly wanted. The adults conversed over where and from whom they got their special brand of fireworks. They all boasted that theirs was the best, proof came when fire met fuse. I remember the sky being lit up as if it where new day dawning with a rainbow of suns. Screeching, pops, bangs, and deep rumbling booms gave credit to some of the claims while the neighborhood dogs barked in chorus. Miniature rockets that had fizzled out and were left in their starting positions and diminutive missiles that climbed higher than the tallest tree, higher than the highest home, only to explode with less jubilation than the word implied, gave testament to others.  


            I came to know the seasons by the things that my mother and what other adults told me would happen when they came around. When the leaves on the trees started to turn from green to yellow, orange to red, then to a dry brittle brown, it meant it was fall. When it became so cold in the morning that all the left over rain puddles that I happily splashed in yesterday froze over, it meant it was winter. Spring was, and without medication still is, the time when my eye and nose ran uncontrollably, or swelled shut, or both at the same time. My head would fill with so much mucus that my ears would hurts and I could barely hear. When I was old enough to take the medications Spring became the time when the flowers boomed. I picked the dandelions and blew, scattering the cotton ball looking bulb to the wind and made a wish. As the lighter than air parachute like seeds floated in the winds, they carried your wish. If they fell, your wish would not come true. If by chance they climbed the breezes and did not come down, your wish was on its way. Me being me I chased after the ones that looked like they were going to fall and blew them more, giving them the push they needed to catch the wind.  


Summer was, and still is, the best. The temperature would get so hot that my older cousin would crack an egg onto the sidewalk and we would watch it cook. Summer meant I could walk about with no shoes and no one would say,


“You’ll catch a cold.”


Later on summer meant the end of school and I could freely frolic threw sprinklers turned on high and stand in the path of open fire hydrants. My grandmother said that I was born in the middle of an Indian Summer so it was no surprise why I loved the heat and would not tolerate any cold.


I wonder what she would say if she could see the seasons today, the world as it is now. I'm sure she would have a lot to say about how, sometimes, really more than some now; you still have to wear sweaters and Pea coats in June.




©Christopher F. Brown 2012


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