Saturday afternoon, lunchtime. Chicken noodle soup, with crackers and cheese and pickles. What could be better? Breaking off little bits of cheese and plopping them into my soup to melt and stick to my spoon. Putting some margarine between two crackers and squeezing them together so the margarine comes like worms out of the holes, but don't use "too much". I know I don't really NEED that much margarine, but the worms work so much better with just a little bit more. Its serious work, and once Paul has shown us how it's done, John, Francis and I are willing students. Peanut butter is good too, but the crackers break too quickly because the peanut butter is too thick. If we're still hungry, mom might pull out some bread and molasses - yum! Although that is more of a winter treat and right now it is June, and there's rhubarb out in the garden. We go out and pick out our own pink stalk, wash them off with the garden hose, and dip into white sugar before taking a sweet/sour bite. We sit outside on the step, sharing the cup of sugar as we each nibble on our own rhubarb stalk, checking each others pink tongues along the way.
Pat comes running towards the house; he has been out playing with some of the other big kids down the road.
"Hey, Monik," he calls to me, "There's a bunch of girls playing over in the pit - you should go see!"
"What? Who?" I don't understand, there aren't many girls in my neighbourhood, at least not ones that like to play outside with me. Sometimes I play with Barb and Shirley Peterson, when my sister Anne is babysitting them, but they don't like to climb trees and stuff. Other times I might play with one of the Derouard girls from across the field, but they aren't really my age and we don't seem to have much in common, either.
Pat goes past me, into the house for his lunch, and laughs at me, "You'll fit right in, they are a bunch of Indians from CJ School! Wooo - wooo!" He pats his hand over his mouth, as if he's on the warpath like in the cowboy movies I'm not allowed to watch. That's not real, it's just like Tarzan - isn't it?
Across the road from my house is a big gravel pit. I guess there used to be lots of trucks going in and out of the pit, taking out gravel to places, but ever since I can remember there has been nothing happening there. Mom always tell us to stay away, but we can't help ourselves. We love to go and explore in the pit and see what we can find - in the middle, there is a big old rusty machine we call "the crusher" because we think it was used to crush up rocks. We climb in it and all over it - it is our fort, our rocket ship... you name it. So I totally understand that there might be a bunch of kids playing over in the pit. And if they are all girls... well, I wouldn't care if they are from Venus and have Two Heads, I'm going to check things out.
I run into the house to tell my Mom where I'm going, and without waiting for an answer I'm back out of the house with the screen door slamming behind me. I run across the road, along the path that takes me to a little road that leads right into the pit. I'm not sure where to find them, or what I'll say when I do, but I'll worry about that later.
As I reach the bottom of the road where the pit widens, I'm suddenly aware of the inviting sound of kids playing. I slow down just a little and follow the sounds, and I see them all playing along the edge of the pit, up in and around the bushes where my brothers and I found some clay once. I slow to a stop and just watch them, nervous and self-conscious now. They are obviously having a great time; there are about a dozen or so girls, all my age it seems like, and they have dark hair like me. There are a couple of older girls who are obviously "in charge" and remind me of my big sister, Anne. They are leading the way; not taking over but making sure that everyone is safe.
I keep standing there, stuck to a spot on the road, waiting for someone to notice me and then I'll know what to do. It doesn't take too long before one of the girls calls out to me, "Hi!"
"Hi!" I call back, "Can I play, too?"
A few other girls stop, to watch. They laugh and look at the first girl, who called me - she is laughing too, but I'm not sure... are they are laughing AT me?
"Can you climb up?" she calls back.
"Yep," I answer, and I am already half way up the side before she changes her mind.
It's hard running up the side of the pit; the gravel is loose and fills up your shoes pretty quick if you're not careful. But I have lots of practice and I know that if I run on my toes, the gravel doesn't have a chance to get into the back of my shoes. I go right up to the girl who first called out to me. She's maybe a little bigger than me, but that's hard to tell because she's up higher on the side of the pit.
"Hi, I'm Monik," I say. "What's your name?"
She smiles, and twists her long dark hair in her fingers. "Dorothy," she says.
"Can I play too?" I say again, just to be sure it's okay.
"Sure!" she says, and with another laugh, she breaks away from us and runs straight down the hill, back down the way I had just come up, her legs moving like windmills around and around so fast it's amazing she doesn't fall right over. I hesitate only a second before I follow her, shrieking all the way down, like everyone is now.
Up and down we go - laughing and panting all the way up, and shrieking all the way down. Sometimes someone will fall, and whoever is close will reach down and pull them back up with no big deal and the game carries on. I take them to the edge of the pit and show them where some birds are nesting - up too high for us to get to, although we'd like to try, just for a better look. I show them the spot where my brothers and me found some clay that one time, enough to make a little clay bowl and dry it in the sun, but today there is no clay. They don't seem to mind.
On and on it goes, one game changing into the next without pause; I never knew it could be this easy to play.
All these girls, going to school just up the road from me and I never knew, never even saw them before. We're not really even talking, just laughing and running, running and laughing. These girls are truly amazing, they are a gift to me. I don't ever want this afternoon to end.