When I was five years old, I fell in love with my neighbor Robbie. He was much older than me and at ten years of age was much more my brother's friend than mine. But sometimes they would let me tag along in their play.
We lived in a trailer park outside of Tulsa and the open land that surrounded the trailer park was filled with culverts and ravines. It was a perfect landscape to play war. Robbie and my brother were often soldiers and I was a M.A.S.H nurse who carried a toy ak47. I remember one truly epic battle when Robbie was "shot" by the enemy and he fell to the ground moaning with all the dramatic anguish that he could muster from a ten year old's understanding of pain. I knew I had to move him toward a culvert and out of the line of fire, so I dragged him few feet and saved Robbie from the "war." But I think my brother Eugene got jealous of all the time I spent with Robbie, for not long after he told me about mushrooms.
We often had mushrooms crop up in the yard. I was inspecting a mushroom one day and enjoying the sensation of feeling the mushroom's pliant cool surface, when Eugene yelled out behind me, "Don't touch that!" I pulled quickly away and put my hands behind my back. He looked at me sternly and asked if I had touched the mushroom. I lied and told him I had not. He breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Good! Those are poisonous and l just one touch would kill you by bedtime." Then he walked away.
I must admit I was rather scared. But how many days from your childhood do you remember with crystal clarity? I truly enjoyed the day I was going to die. I played with abandon. I was very kind to my little sister and bequeathed her all of my toys. I had fried chicken with mashed potatoes that night for supper and relished watching The Incredible Hulk on TV. Everything smelled so wonderful, colors were so bright and people were so good. I put on my favorite night gown. I snuggled into my bed divested of all my worldly possessions. I said my prayers with my mother and sister. When Mom said goodnight, I said goodbye.
That is when the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan.
My brother was in big trouble. He still giggles about that story, and he is in his mid-forties. But I thank my brother, because I have a crystal clear memory of a day from my childhood, all because I thought I was going to die and made peace with that. He meant to play a trick on me, but instead he gave me a precious gift.
Later that same year, I again wore my favorite night gown. I spun in circles like a ballerina It was such a pretty gown: long and tiered with lace. It would balloon around me as I spun and I felt so beautiful in that gown. After I spun a final time, I smiled at my mother and said, "I love this gown so much I want to be buried in it. Mom looked at me with disapproval and said, "Hush, don't say such things." I was very confused, why wouldn't Mom want to know my wishes if I died?
Last August I went home again to visit my mother. She is almost eighty years old. She has trouble moving around these days and wanted help going through her closet. We packed up two large bags of clothes for charity. But she picked out a favorite dress to remain in the closet and I wrote a sign for it. "Bury me in this," it said.
I understood those sentiments exactly and in my memories a little girl spun in circles of joy.