Thursday, September 22, 2005

All about Eva (or the bits I remember)

I've often wondered if Eva habitually hung out at the motel, aware she could pick up a game once in a while. Or if she'd already heard through the grapevine that a little girl her age had hit town. After watching Northern Exposure, I decided it was the grapevine. But I'll never know for sure unless she's out there reading this blog. Wouldn't it be awesome if she was?
Anyway, the next morning there she stood, scuffing her toe on the patio by the pool. My father alerted me to her presence.
Eva was thin, gangly and very blonde. She wore a red cardigan and pale cat's eye glasses. I have no idea what we said to each other but we bonded in that mysterious, quick way kids have. My next mental snapshot is of her house and its vast, echoing emptiness.
She and her little brother Benjamin didn't have a bed. They slept on sleeping bags over hardwood floors. The living room had pale green carpeting. Her mother was young, thin and attractive with brown hair. Benjamin had one toy - a plastic model horse. I don't know what Eva had.
I recall these things as a grown up, but none of it seemed strange or unsettling then. Although my father made good money, we didn't live like he did. We didn't have alot of stuff and neither did our neighbors. No one did.
I remember being blown away by the one material thing they had in abundance - parkas. Eva threw open the closet door and the breadth and scope of winter gear was staggering. Stuffed to the gills. Giving a clue about her life in the frozen north.
My next memory is walking in the warm sun through a field of tall grass. Up ahead was a tar paper and corrugated metal shack. She asked if I wanted to go see her friend and I said yes.
Inside the one-room shack sat your stereotypical forty-niner - scruffy beard down to here and a big toothless grin. He wore a torn, thin tee shirt, suspenders and old-man slacks. The room was crammed with knickknacks and assorted oddities. But, gloriously, amidst the mess, his prized posession wiggled - a perfectly primped and coiffed pomeranian dog.
Don't ask me it's name. I couldn't tell you.
On the way back to her house, Eva picked wild mushrooms and gave them to her mother, who sauteed them and served them on toast. She asked me if I wanted some but I'd never seen anything so gross in my life.
Now I wish I'd eaten them.
Today it would be too dangerous for two nine-year old girls to go wandering. I'm so thankful I grew up before now. And I mourn that my children will never know the kind of true and blissful freedom that comes from strolling the Alaskan wilderness with a brand new friend.

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