Dah managed the cafeteria for one of the local high schools. In this position, she did regular business with soda companies. Each year, the Coca-Cola representative would give her a stack of tickets to a ball game, and she and Papa would take all the grandkids. The Padres would celebrate their founder’s birthday every year, and that just happened to be close to mine and Cousin-B’s birthdays. I had never been very interested in professional sports, but since I started collecting baseball cards with my friends, I at least knew the player’s names. Somewhere in the back of my mind was a dim hope that they would give out special cards to ticket holders, but such was never to be the case. The Padre’s mascot was a chicken who would run around pranking the other team’s players. Every year, we had a wonderful time, but the memories have blurred together so as that I can’t remember which memory was from which game. The only thing that really stands out for me is that they lost every game we attended… the Pirates, the Orioles, and the Yankees all had their turn beating out home team, but we loved out Padres anyway.
Just about the entire neighborhood had been playing at my house that afternoon, and we must have driven Mother to the edge of madness, because without much fanfare, my great grandmother had me, Sister, and Cousin-L loaded into her baby blue Pinto and on our way up to Alpine. The winding road was enough to make anyone queasy, so we all sat still and kept our eyes on the curving yellow and white lines. Despite my rather severe stomach pains, I had to work especially hard at giving myself motion sickness, but since we had been promised ice cream, we were careful to not take any chances at make ourselves ill. Near the edge of the township proper, there was a bakery and attached ice cream parlor. Sister was interested in the bubble gum variety, just as I had been at first, but I warned her that it wasn’t nearly as good as it sounded. She didn’t trust my judgment, and was consequently disappointed. Cousin-L, as I recall went for a more standard chocolate chip, and I chose a brightly colored orange sherbet. I tried to enjoy my dessert while Cousin-L, despite half her hands being full of ice cream cone, attempted to explain to me the more delicate aspects of cartwheel theory. GG consoled Sister, who was making sounds of dissatisfaction. After our treats were finished, we loaded back into the car and headed home. As we neared the more twisty part of the road, I felt my stomach start to churn. Even though I seemed immune to motion sickness, I was immediately afraid that I had fallen victim to it’s nauseating sway. By the time we were turning off the highway and headed up the street toward home, my mouth was salivating, and I knew that I was in trouble. GG had let Sister out of the back seat, but I was waiting for Cousin-L to release me, and she was still rambling on about cartwheels. My body however, was not waiting any longer. I heaved, and emptied my stomach onto the floor of GG’s car. I felt dizzy and for a moment I felt I might black out entirely. The following moments were a blur, but when I was able, I apologized to my great grandmother and promised her I would clean up the mess. She assured me though, that it had already been taken care of. Inside my home, I laid on the floor, my breathing belabored. When I awoke, I felt better save for the shame that lingered yet.
Uncle-E’s Irish Setter, Toby was a mellow and friendly sort of fellow. He would follow Cousin-L, her recently more adventurous brother Cousin-B, and myself around lazily flopping down onto the ground nearby where ever we were playing. At this time there was a family living with my uncle, and their strawberry blonde daughter who was a year or so younger than us would follow us around in much the same manner as the dog. It shames me to admit that we were never kind to this girl. In fact, I thought so little of her that I cannot even remember her name. The three of us were playing at the top of the driveway, where we were free of Cousin-B’s toddler antics. Cousin-L had found an empty gallon milk jug, and suggested we make some tea. First we ripped some weeds out from one of the planter boxes and stuffed those into the jug, next we added handfuls of pine needles, followed by three dandelions. Cousin-L was not convinced that this would make a flavorful enough beverage. With exaggerated, animated motions, she scavenged about the yard, seeking that floral je ne sais quoi. Meanwhile, the ginger outcast had been on her own procurement quest, and returned with a fistful of dog food, which she handed over to Cousin-L for appraisal. Cousin-L looked over the few small, brown nuggets. “This is perfect!” she declared before dropping them into the jug one by one. “This is going to be the best tea ever” she claimed “but it’s not for us, this is Toby’s tea.” She filled the jug from the hose, almost to the brim, and it took the both of us to give it a proper shake. As the container full of ersatz tea brewed in the sun, I looked to my cousin and mused “If we’re going to sell this for other dogs, it needs a better name.” Cousin-L nodded knowingly, “Toby Tobias Tea is what it is”, and so that is what it was. Before the day was finished, we had tried to get that poor younger girl to drink some of the concoction. She refused, and so we didn’t let her follow us up to the top of the road, where R1 lived. I called our new neighbor over to the street, where Cousin-L and I had lugged the Toby Tobias Tea. “Do you think Bootsie would like a sample of our home made tea that’s just for dogs?” I asked her. R1 leaned over the fence and gazed at the jug. “Nah, I don’t think anyone’s gonna wanna drink that! Maybe I can get my brother to drink it.” Cousin-L chucked “We couldn’t even get Toby to drink it.”
Cousin-L’s room didn’t have very much in it, white walls broken only by the entrance and a window overlooking the canyon, a bed, a small color television, and the largest wooden dollhouse I had ever seen. I don’t know why we were playing inside that day, but the outdoors were brightly lit, and the sunlight shining through the window illuminated the room in a way I was unfamiliar with. Cousin-L was showing me her Barbie doll collection. I thought the bubblegum pink car was a bit gaudy, but I tried to dress the brown haired Skipper doll as we watched Jem, a popular cartoon show about a girl’s rock band. The bright colors and flashing lights here hypnotizing to me. I looked over my shoulder at my cousin, “We should be in a band.” She smiled and nodded, her head full of rum colored curls bounced as her eyes twinkled with absolute delight.
All of the windows in the new classroom were either behind me, or so high that they offered only views of neighboring rooftops. Still, they let in a fair amount of light which I appreciated. Compared to the school in Colorado, there were twice as many students and corresponding desks. The teacher never looked my direction, and I had no idea what she was talking about. The desks were spread far apart, and I don’t remember ever being sure if Cousin-L was in my class or another, but we did have recess at the same time. The playground area was mostly blacktop and a few tether-ball poles along with a sandbox and equipment consisting of a two seat swing-set, and a monkey bar tower. Since the tethers lacked their balls unless an adult was present, we naturally gravitated toward the monkey bars. Cousin-L sat at the top as the captured Princess Leia, while everyone else chose to be an Imperial or a Rebel, and fought for control of her highness. This game was quickly put to an end, and access to the bars along with it. We then had the two swings and playground overlords who were clearly the enemy. A pattern quickly emerged in which I was either standing on a wall, or being blamed by students for some other infraction. I remember expressing my feelings on the situation to Mother, and it wasn’t long before I had moved to another school.