When I was a little girl I had a gap in my front teeth and freckles. I could have easily passed for Alfred E. Neuman’s little sister. I was the front man in the group of kids that wandered through our housing development. I was the youngest and the smallest and I looked like a cartoon. When I opened my mouth I had the vocabulary of a thirty-year old and that totally threw people. The other kids would send me as the advance scout to feel out the possibility of a snack or some Kool-Aid. I was hard to say no to or I didn’t take no for an answer…it just depended on which door I knocked on.
The sun was usually setting when we pedaled our bikes into our driveways. I never remember my parents asking me where I’d been or what I had been up to. Never. They didn’t have to because there was an underground system of tattle-tales…a kind of neighborhood behavior watch…everybody’s business was everybody’s business…and it worked.
Most of our neighborhood was under construction…”little boxes on a hilltop”. I can’t say we were poor because none of us knew any better. I thought everyone lived in tiny houses, had four kids to a bedroom and one bathroom the size of a closet for eight people. I had a rude awakening when they started building two story Cape Cod style houses nearby. They looked like mansions to us. One of my friends had her own bedroom and bathroom. I thought she was rich. And that was when I figured out that I wasn’t.
The paved road ended two houses past us, where it dropped off about a foot onto a dirt road that led to the rest of the new houses under construction.
The construction sites were our playground…we climbed up into the rafters of the framed out houses and jumped down into the dirt piles filled with nails and tin pieces and insulation. With the exception of a campfire or two gone wrong, we never did anything really bad, because somehow it always got back to our mothers.
Our mothers didn’t have to keep a tight rein on us because there was always someone watching the herd. No one’s mother took offense to having their child ratted out because they knew reciprocation was right around the corner. It didn’t matter that each home had at least one kid with their arm in a cast or on crutches for most of the summer. They kept an open file in the emergency room just for our family alone.
We were let loose and it was paradise…a fool’s paradise maybe…but a paradise all the same. I remember one summer in particular. We were in trouble because we unscrewed the knobs from the oak dresser drawers in our bedroom and stuck them to the bottom of our shoes with gum and pretended we had high heels. We thought we got away with it until my neck broke out in a rash from the fiberglass curtains we pulled down from the windows to make capes. We had to sit on the curb and watch everyone else ride off on their bikes. They were planning to climb the fence near the Water Works and pick cattails. It wasn’t long before they were sitting on the curb too, turned in by some unseen force that we later came to know as the old lady in the green house on the corner. She was just one link in the chain of tattle-tales, but to us, for years she was THE one.
And that was when the caper I like to call The Summer of the Car Trap took form.
I was a…charming…child. I would always follow a statement with one of my tooth-gapped grins and I pretty much got what I wanted. When I asked my mother for a shovel, she asked me what I was going to do with it. I told her, straight up that I was going to dig a car trap. The shovel was bigger than me. She didn’t give it a second thought.
The bigger kids across the street brought their shovels too, and before long we had a pretty good sized hole where the pavement ended and the dirt road began. One of the boys got a hose and we filled it with water, then we sat down on the curb and waited.
It wasn’t long before the man that lived right next to us came driving up the street. He always drove to the end of the pavement and backed his car into his driveway. I can still see his face…slow motion…nodding to us as he drove by, the front end of his car dropping off the end of the pavement… and right into our water-filled car trap.
I can’t say for sure what brought all the mothers running…it might have been our cheering…more likely his yelling. I was still holding the shovel when my mother caught up with me. All the gap-toothed charm in the world wasn’t going to dig me out of that hole.
And digging holes is what brings me to today’s observation. It’s the tale of two wealthy women…and the choices they made.
Elin Nordegren, ex-wife of Tiger Woods, bulldozed the 12.3 million dollar Palm Beach house that she purchased after their divorce, to the ground…a costly decision and not just monetarily. It is none of anyone’s business what she chooses do do with her money. But this has thrown a little ice water on the empathy she garnered after what she went through under the glare of the spotlight. So much for living privately. A psychologist could have a field day with this one.
Philanthropist Herta von Stiegel decided that just writing a check to a charity for the disabled wasn’t enough. She wanted to call attention to how much people with physical and mental disabilities can achieve if they are given the challenge and the chance.
Herta had failed in her first attempt to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Refusing to fail a second time, she decided to take seven disabled people with her who never imagined that they could succeed. They trained for two years and she chronicled the story in her memoir The Mountain Within.
Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest summit in Africa and the climb is not for the faint of heart, with only about 30% of the climbers making it to the Uhuru summit.
All seven of the disabled people stepped out of their comfort zones, faced their limitations and climbed. Three of them made it to the summit with Herta.
Two women with endless means and possibilities, both in the news on the same day…
One dug a hole and found herself in it…and the other, well…she filled in a bunch of holes, and when she found herself on the top of the mountain, she wasn’t alone.
Funny word…wealthy…just depends on how you carry the weight of it.
As for holes…I’ve dug myself a few…and I’ve usually found myself standing next to them holding the shovel. I’m sure I’ll dig a few more…
Day Three Hundred and Fifty One…stars are out…peace.