Sunday, June 29, 2008

didn't stay inside to clean...

Guess what we did instead?

5.25 miles
3 times around the lake
one banged up knee
2 traded-up bikes
2 fast, 3 slow
1 sore bottoms
579 whiny comments
2 weepy girls
5 tired people
1 good night's sleep!

We're going to do it again tomorrow night!

Monday, June 23, 2008

reeder, nd

this is the town that I loved as a child.

celebrating 100 years...

I wonder if it will survive another 10 years...

I don't think the cars will survive. They will become garden art...

We - my mother, 2 aunties, cousin and cousin-in-law, visited this favorite old prairie town. Just the gals...
We visited, perhaps, for the last time.
I think that I am OK, but it was a lonely feeling knowing that it may be a forever goodbye.
There's really no reason to return.
My family has all moved on.
I guess I will take the good memories and the re-found best summer friends.
That's OK.
We certainly laughed a lot together in this hot-august town.
The parade went around twice...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Children can be rather hateful little creatures.
Even mine...
Mostly other people's...
I wish that I could lock my bedroom door and take a serious time out!
I am so done, I am crispy!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My, how times change

I just returned from my early morning workout. Funny. I used to hate "workouts." Now, don't think that I could live with out them.
Yaya is telling me these days that she is "exercising." I think that she may end up with healthy habits as an adult. The other 2..? I've still got some work to do.
Via is dancing and Noni is a soccer queen. Maybe we are all finding our place in this moving world.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Grandpa's Bank

Every hot-august morning, after the 8 o'clock train whistle blows, we leave Grandma's bakery warm kitchen and head downtown. I walk with Grandpa - hand in hand - the 3 blocks to his bank. Sometimes, he lets me carry the enormous ring of 16 ancient and important keys.

"It's our secret," he says, slyly, with a wink.

147 steps from Grandma's back door to the chipped-up cement steps of the bank.

3 minutes, more or less.

We step-stumble around the muddy puddles from last night's cloud burst.
We wave at the 2 women in the Post Office.
We shake our heads at the neighbor's pregnant dog. "Go home, Daisy!"
and then...

We're here!

Grandpa's Bank.

Together, we unlock the heavy door. Number 7 Main Street West.

The clunk of the trusty lock...
A gentle push on the brass handle...
The door swings open wide...

We're inside!

It takes a moment for our eyes to adjust to the darkness of this quiet room. It smells warm and dusty and familiar. The early morning sunlight drips onto the dozens of crackling grey tiles, spelling the bank name backwards in the shadows on the floor. The dust dances in that morning light.

First things first: I step-jump up onto the old church pew that sits along the front wall, my summer clog-sandals cha-chunking against the wood of the seat. I check out the 6 "Wanted" posters. Whew! No one I know.

Then, I take my bank-place securely under the cashier's counter. I slip out of my shoes, and shimmy into my spot. I am crouched low, sitting behind the secret door. The top of my pony-tailed head skims the underside of the solid oak counter. My back presses against the cream-painted stucco wall, and my pink city-girl legs slap onto the chilly floor. I fit perfectly!

I sit here for hours...
well, minutes maybe,
carefully examining the red dust on my 10 pale naked Norwegian toes.


For anything...

1 single person...

1 single phone call...



Then, it happens!

The phone rings! 2 quick rings, and Grandpa answers it. He talks for a while. He hangs up and fishes a quarter out of his pants pocket.

"That was Grandma. Time to go home. Here's a quarter. Stop at Mabel's for a treat. I'll see you at lunch."

And so, I go, stopping at Mabel's to pick out 25 pieces of penny candy. I go home, paper bag crunched in my hand, and I wait for the 12 O'clock train whistle that tells me Grandpa is coming home for lunch.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Giants on the Playground

It is hot-august.

I am 9 years old.

I am sweat-stuck to the flowered sheets. My bathing suit is pretending to be my pajamas. I am blanketed only in the hot-august heat that has laid its heavy self across the plains of North Dakota, covering this house, my bed, my toes, my sweat-sticky hair…
It is 7 AM.

I am spending another summer at Grandma's house. I wake slowly in my mother’s childhood bed – listening to the prairie town come back to life in the early morning stillness.

It is so… quiet. Nothing like my own home. Nothing like my loud city mornings.
First, the breeze – the curtains dance around the windowsill – and now, the slow, rhythmic clanging of metal against metal.

The wind has woken the Giants on the playground.

We all hear them. Rusty, Donny, Dopey, Shawn, David, Shannon and me – each of us in our own home - each in our own bed - we all hear them. And we know without asking that the others have heard the Giants, too.

Today is the day.

I suck in my breath – hold it for a moment – then I unstick my sun-freckled self from the bed and reluctantly trudge outside.


The wind is picking up – stirring up the Giants. Twirling them, metal against metal, steadily twirling them. Tinging, and taunting every child who's ever been defeated by the Giants...

Silently, our gang of summer-best friends gathers in the dusty street in front of Grandma’s house. It feels like the rest of the world has gone into hiding, waiting out a storm. The birds seem to have stopped singing and the crickets have gone quiet. We are alone, the bunch of us, on this hot, dusty road.

We begin our walk to the playground. No one whistles today. No one flips a nickel or kicks a stone. We kids are quieter than we’ve ever been in our lives. Silently, somberly walking to meet the Giants, a cloud of red dust kicking up behind us.

All I can hear is my heart in my ears!
All I can see is the end of the street.
The playground.
The wind picks up.


The Giants!
We all know the rules by heart. Every kid who's ever challenged the giants knows the rules.

Rule number one: Only one try per kid per summer.

This is it!
Our one shot at defeating the Giants for the whole summer.
There is no going home now.
We keep walking.
Then, suddenly, we are here.
The playground.


I scan the playground.
The slide…
The swings…
The merry-go-round…

And there,
Off to the side,
Stand the Giants.


That’s what we call them. Two really tall silver poles with twirling chains and handles to hang on to, like metal may poles, with dangling human-child ribbons.

The Challenge: run as fast as you can and grab the handles at the end of the chains and twirl around – feet off the ground – at least 3 FULL turns.
If you let go before 3 turns, you are out.

This is really. Serious. Business!

Rusty – the oldest – goes first.
He runs really fast. He grabs the handles and twirls.
One time around.
Two times around.
Then, his hands slips. He falls. He dusts off his school-new sneakers, and blows a raspberry at the metal Giant. He didn’t beat the challenge.

Donny and Dopey go next.
(You can do that. It’s in the rules.)
Donny misses all together and Dopey let’s go after one time around. They end up in a boy pile underneath the mighty Giant. They didn’t beat the challenge.

David and Shawn are too little to reach the handles and Shannon chickens out at the last minute.

That means it’s my turn.

“C’mon, City Girl!” Yells Donny.

“She won’t do it, I bet. She’s too short.” Says Rusty.

I step back, wiping my sweat-muddy hands on my cut-off shorts.

I take a deep breath.

I give this Giant a long, hard look.
And then,
I run.

I run faster than I’ve ever run before.
I jump for the handles.
(I’ve got them! I’m twirling.)

One time around…
My feet kick at the hot air, encouraging my circular journey.
Two times around…
(Hold on! Hold on!)
Three times around…
(I am doing it! I am doing it! I am beating the challenge!)

“Wow.” Says Shawn.

I go for a fourth twirl...
(This is like flying. I am twirling and flying!)

I twirl-fly around the Giant four and one half times before I choose to let go. I’ve hardly picked myself up off the red dirt ground before Dopey, Rusty and Donny all give me stinging, open-handed slaps on my back.

“Way to go, City Girl!” They are laughing and happy.

Shawn punches my arm. Hard. Shannon is jumping up and down, clapping and laughing and shouting for joy!

Me? I am kind of stunned into silence.
(That was really, really fun!)

The 12 o’clock train whistle blows, calling the men and children home for lunch. The gang of summer-best friends scatters, running home, thinking about how they will go around and around the Giants next summer.

I don’t run.
I walk - slowly – reluctant to leave this place.
The place of my 9 year old’s victory over the Giants

I turn and face the big metal Giants before I too go home.

I suck in my breath – hold it for a moment – then I twirl my sun-scorched self around and skip-hop home.

For one short hot-august afternoon on the North Dakota prairie,
I am the Giant on the Playground.