What I remember was the heat rising from the old bricks, the saltwater air, the wobbly wheels of the tricycle and the utter delight of trolling behind my sister Mimi on her larger tricycle. Joy. Abandon. Warmth and wellbeing. Dimly, the surrounding walls of the U-shaped apartment building which had recently beome home. Comfort. Health and peace. Happy family.
Well, that's the way I remember it. Here's what was really going on: We were newly arrived in Norfolk, VA, a temporary home for my missionary parents, who had met and married in Porto Alegre, Brazil where I was born. Mimi had been so sick on the voyage home that half the people on the ship didn't think she'd make it. Our two older sisters were consumed with despair at the prospect of starting new schools where no one spoke Portugese and their English would sound funny. The heat was stifling; air conditioning hadn't been invented. Whooping cough was rampant. The lady in the apartment below us was less that delighted to have four rambunctious children move in above, and tried -- with varying degrees of success -- to make my mother's life hell every day. (Fair enough; we were doing the same for her.) My father didn't really have a job. There were so many rats around the apartments my mother hated to let us out for tricycling. This was in the mid-30s, the Great Depression was on and didn't feel very great at the time. The looming war had made it seem unwise for Americans to be overseas, prompting a hasty abandonment of everything and a general family calamity .
But I remember the warmth, the wellbeing, the saltwater air. People think creative nonfiction is something new?
Causes Fran Johns Supports
Compassion & Choices of N.CA
San Francisco Interfaith Council