Afternoons started with her grandmother quietly waiting outside the prefab building where the little girl would spend first, second, and even the fourth year – with a different teacher – of her elementary education. Their walk would ensue with passing across the breezy campus down a decently busy street that ran through their neighborhood. They continued over what was a drainage culvert on one side, but on their side, looking below the bridge was a view with rocks, discarded concrete, and the overgrown foliage produced by the negligence of whatever city worker forgot to trim it back.
As she got older, the girl and her neighborhood allies would play a variety of games under that bridge, including dares to run through the dark tunnel which ran underneath the street. Water was never present more than a slow drip or trickle, but the excitement of knowing they probably shouldn’t be playing there, would induce fits of giggles where it was hard to breathe. Of course now none of these games would be possible. Surely someone got hurt or a PTA mom with a little too much clout and worry convinced the city council to spend money covering up and fencing off the area, so those little imaginations had one less place to find freedom and friendship. For the time being, it remained, and the little girl would smile as she thought of all the adventures she was soon to have.
Other times she’d be picked up in that white car. The one with the navy blue top and the dark blue interior. Who knows how old it actually was; the cloth across the ceiling needed to be re-stretched and re-stapled in place. She would stare out those big windows watching the trees go by, street after street, with the turn signal clicking so loud, she never understood how her grandma could ever forget it was still going.
These were the days with art lessons. Sometimes it was painting or drawing, other times it was a pottery class. Her fondest memories were sitting at the tall pottery tables on a stool she didn’t realize was “bar height” until she was much older. While she didn’t particularly care to get dirty, making things out of the wet, slimy clay was an exception. They’d make baskets and dragons, masks and bowls. It was always rather curious how the paint looked completely different once her little clay piece had been fired in the kiln…
Slowing at a red light, her daydreaming would stop. The magic was about to happen. She’d hold her breath, patiently waiting, switching back and forth from watching the woman with the snow-white permed hair in the gold-framed glasses to that red traffic light. Then her grandmother would point a finger, “now” she’d say, and the light would suddenly be green. Every time the little girl both amazed and impressed with her powerful grandmother.