Just after lunch, I once again traveled back to that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo. The journey back wasn’t because I willed it through something I said or did. Instead, it was made possible by the smallest and youngest of us all.
Born 364 days apart, our two granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline, are very close in age and extremely kind and sweet, but that’s where the similarities end, and their own personalities begin. Normally they can play for hours together, but this day, right after lunch, was going to be different.
Sweet Caroline asked her older sister, “Will you play with me?”
The answer came without hesitation, “No. I’m going to my room to read a book.”
“Okay,” our little redhead replied. “I’ll just play by myself.”
Hearing this exchange from the kitchen, I was rather pleased no fighting happened and no intervention from me was warranted. Still cleaning up from lunch, I eventually looked up and into the living room where Sweet Caroline was indeed playing all by herself.
Or so I thought.
At first what I saw made no sense, so I continued to look on at what she was doing. Still not understanding what was happening right in front of me, I finally had to asked, “What are you doing, sweetness?”
Her ensuing explanation provided the vehicle I needed to travel back to the childhood home my three brothers, The Sister, and me spent seven magical years growing up in.
Being the youngest of five kids, I always wanted to play with my older siblings: Big Brother James, Older Brother Richard, and yes, even The Sister. But sometimes they didn’t want to play with me. When Sweet Caroline asked her older sister to play with her, I remember speaking the same words early one Saturday morning back on Flamingo.
James and Richard didn’t want to play with me because they were going outside to ride their bikes. Still hoping they would, I followed them outside, jumped on my bike, and peddled after them. Quickly they rode to the end of the driveway, took a left down Flamingo and were soon out of sight. Thinking I would finally catch up with them, I pedaled as fast as I could down the street. If I caught up with them, they may finally decide to play with me.
I never did.
As I pedaled right in front of his house, Down the Street Bully Brad threw out a stick in front of my bike. Flying over the handlebars, I realized I probably wasn’t gonna catch up with my brothers. Eventually, I came to a rolling stop after crashing face first into the dirt that was his front yard. My bike was wrecked, and I was wrecked too — scraped and bleeding almost everywhere. Bully Brad was laughing so hard he could barely walk back into his house.
My brothers were long gone.
Dragging my broken bike as I limped back home, I started to cry. All I had wanted was someone to play with. No one wanting to play with you is a tough thing to understand when you’re a seven-year-old. How that day would’ve been different if I had only thought about doing what our Sweet Caroline had just done in our front room — she had just built two friends to play with: Pickles, and Spike.
About eighteen inches long, Pickles is a blue dog she constructed out of a half circle of high density foam exercising block. Outfitted with taped-on brown paper ears, legs, tail, and stick-on eyes, I had to admit Pickles did look like a dog. His best buddy, Spike, is a black cat. With a shoe box for a body, pipe cleaner ears and tail, silly eyes and painted legs, Spike was born in less than twenty minutes.
After attaching leashes to both, Sweet Caroline called for her sister. She needed help to walk both together. For the rest of the afternoon, our granddaughters played with their newly made “friends.”
During cleanup, I ask why she wanted to walk both Pickles and Spike at the same time. She replied, “I didn’t want to leave one behind. They would get lonely.”
I smiled and replied, “Trust me, I totally understand.”
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]