Tattered Phoenix by Kachina Riley

“Oh, Mother, it’s beautiful!  May I try mine on?” 

“Yes, of course,” she laughed. “I need to see how well it fits you. I will try mine on, too, so we can see how we look together! Tomorrow, we will dress up in our new dresses and go to Akron.”

The next day was Saturday and we both looked elegant walking down the back alley road to get to the bus stop at Sandy Beach. Even Benny told us how lovely we looked. I think he was proud of us.

The alleyway was a path through the woods, with trees that transformed to beautiful colors with the changing seasons. Today, it was spring and the forest was a kaleidoscope of wonderful shades of green!

We spent the day shopping and had lunch in town. We usually ate at the Peoples Drug Store or a little restaurant that looked like a train car.      

“What would you like for lunch?” Mother asked Benny.

“A hot dog with mustard and a Coke,” he always answered.            

“What do you want, Sister?” she then asked me.

“A fish sandwich and an ice cream milkshake,” I replied immediately.

This is what we loved when we went out to lunch. Then Benny would have chocolate ice cream for dessert.

Mother rarely bought much when we went shopping. It was just an adventurous pleasure trip to the city.

By the time we arrived back on the bus we were always exhausted!  Despite her weariness, Mother would carry us both—one on each hip—up the alley and back to our home. Sometimes she would give one of us a piggy-back ride while carrying the other.

Neither Mother nor Daddy could read very well. But Mother knew a lot of nursery rhymes that she recited to us as we went on our adventures. So we learned them, too, and had fun repeating them in sing-song fashion. I especially loved to hear Mother sing. She sang a lot, often unconsciously.  Her singing made me feel safe and secure.                                                                          

As a child, I loved adventure. I was a climber, always trying to get my arms and legs up and around trees, swings, couches or just about anything that attracted my attention. One day, when I was about three years old, I climbed up the chicken house door to the flat roof, which was the same height as the roof of our house. From that height I could see Daddy over the hill working in the garden. I was very proud of myself for getting up so high. I called to him and waved. “Daddy, Daddy, look at me.  I can see you in the garden.”

He looked up and I waved and shouted again. “I can see you in the garden.  Look at me.”  I was waving my arms so he would know it was me.

“Stand still, Sister! Don’t move,” Daddy shouted as he dropped the hoe and started running up the hill. “Stand still! Daddy will get you down,” he shouted again as if I couldn’t hear him. As he got closer, I could see that his face was really red from running up the hill.

I stood tall. I was so proud of myself. I could climb up to the top of the roof of the chicken house. Not even Benny had been able to do this! I clapped my hands and called down to Daddy below as he got the ladder out of the shed and began to balance it against the roof. 

“Look how high I can climb, Daddy. I can even see to the bottom of the garden.”

Meanwhile, Mother had heard the commotion. She came running rapidly around the corner of the chicken house with Benny right behind her.

“Oh my God!” Mother yelled. “What on earth are you doing on the roof? How did you get up there?” she cried, seeing me standing on the roof so proud of myself.  She was looking extremely out of sorts!

I clapped my hands and announced that I had climbed up the door, and could see clear over the hill. I noticed that even Benny seemed really proud of me. However, Mother and Daddy did not seem the least bit proud. Actually they both looked very upset.

Daddy climbed up the ladder to get me. He was shaking as he carried me down. I grabbed his face in both my little hands and planted a kiss on his forehead.

“Daddy, I am your brave little girl, huh?” I asked. He did not demonstrate the appreciation for this gesture that I had anticipated. Instead, he gave me a very intense scolding, but no spanking. I never did have the nerve to climb up there again, although I did give it serious consideration from time to time.


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Genre – Memoir

Rating – PG13

Connect with Kachina Riley on her website



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