I was 12 when we moved to the small town that I consider my home town. We stayed there till I graduated high school and my father still lives in this small town. It was the longest we lived anywhere. I like to think that I became who I am in that town.
But the day we moved in; my brother, T, and my sister, J, and I decided to go for a bike ride to explore the town. We were only in the way of the parents’ unpacking.
This was long before the days of giving children cell phones with GPS units. Or maybe it wasn’t. I think poor people grow up in a different generation that middle or upper class people.
We grew up without AC, in Florida. We didn’t have cable, or even a color TV for some period of time. We didn’t eat fast food, or junk food, or fancy store bought bread.
So J, T, and I hopped on our bikes and explored our new town. The parents didn’t ask where we were going, and we didn’t think to tell. We rode down to the main strip. It was like a cute little town in an old movie.
The main strip was a bit touristy, but it was full of quaint old shops and antique stores. There was a bakery and new age shop and a comic book store. And, most importantly for me, a two story library.
It was summer, and hot out. I was the responsible one, and hadn’t thought to bring water. And we didn’t have money to buy any.
Also, we were utterly and completely lost.
None of us had paid attention on our way to the downtown area. We were young and drunk on the freedom of a new town and adventure. We had just been riding for the pleasure of riding.
We were exhausted and pedaling back slowly in the midafternoon heat. Sweat was running down the nape of my neck. I wanted to stop and rest, but I wanted to find our way home more.
We rode for a long time, longer I felt, than we had gone out. And still, none of us recognized our surroundings.
We came to a shady spot in the sidewalk. And J just stopped.
She was the baby and T and I knew we couldn’t leave her, so we stopped too. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
She was nearly in tears. “I can’t go on! Just leave me here! Go on without me! Have mom and dad come back with the car to get me.”
T and I exchanged looks. I could tell he was trying to not crack up laughing. It was so her. Melodramatic and unintentionally hilarious. And we wouldn’t dare to laugh at her in the moment. No matter how hard it was not to.
T said, “No, we can’t leave you here. We have to be close.”
I said, “Yeah, J. Please keep going. You can do it!”
“No, I can’t! Just leave me here! Go on without me!” J wailed. I’m pretty sure she even got off her bike at this point and flounced down on the sidewalk. Correct me if I am wrong here, J.
It took some doing, but we somehow convinced her to keep going.
She got back on her bike and we rode around the corner. We had been two blocks from our house.
We have NEVER let J live that down.
Every time I drive past that spot in town by our old house, I crack up. Every time someone in a movie says anything like that (no matter how serious the scene), I crack up.* And sometimes, one of the three of us will randomly call the other and say those words, and I crack up.
In fact, I have been laughing so hard writing this that I am crying.
*I am the WORST person to watch movies with. My favorite thing to do is urge two men to kiss during those intense and weirdly homo-erotic fight scenes where they are all up in each others faces. Also, I make fun of everything. Even in movies I love.